Supes want closer look at Lincoln-Auburn sewer pipeline

By: Gus Thomson, Journal staff writer
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Placer County supervisors spent a marathon session Tuesday in an attempt to come up with a solution for ongoing wastewater challenges in North Auburn’s Sewer Maintenance District 1.

At the end of the day, they board voted to continue to have staff study the so-called regional solution that could take in Lincoln and possibly Auburn as partners. Supervisors will have another look at the regional option by March 13.

The board started hearing in the late morning from county staff, state government water quality officials and members of the public on the pros and cons of three potential solutions. They were continuing to hear from speakers into the evening more than six hours later.

Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery said that it will be crucial going forward to know whether Auburn would be part of the regional partnership.

“If we go down this path, I’m not going to be comfortable saying ‘Yeah, regional’ if you’re not going with us,” Montgomery said.
All solutions to North Auburn’s water discharge woes are costly and – because of continuing changes in state and federal water quality standards – have no guarantees against future upgrades or even greater increases in rates for North Auburn residents and businesses.

Pamela Creedon, Central Valley Regional Water Control Board executive officer, said that regulators are continually dealing with new issues on toxicity in water, setting new standards and developing new science. That translates into constantly changing regulations on everything from illegal and legal drugs in treated effluent to reducing levels of nitrates and arsenic, she said.

“My board isn’t going to tell you which way to go but it’s going to regulate you regardless,” Creedon said.

Supervisors concentrated most of the meeting on costs and logistics for:
• Proceeding with a regional solution for the district to construct a new pipeline from North Auburn down to the city of Lincoln’s treatment plant. The option would cost between $91.6 million and $139.3 million, according to a county funded report, with Placer paying an estimated $64.5 million to $92.5 million.

• Or acting at the meeting to instruct staff to award a bid this month for an upgrade and expansion of the current North Auburn plant. Total cost would be a projected $62.3 million. Supervisor Jim Holmes could not muster enough votes to go ahead with that option. Montgomery was the lone supporter, with supervisors Robert Weygandt, Jack Duran and Kirk Uhler voting against it.

Tuesday’s board-level talks took place as the county continues to pay $15,000 a month in fines because the North Auburn wastewater plant can’t meet state and federal requirements.

Lincoln City Councilman Spencer Short told supervisors that they should stick to a long-held vision on developing a regional pipeline plan. Lincoln is a major backer of the pipeline plan and its studies say it could be in place to meet the 2015 deadline.
“We’re talking about visionary leadership,” Short said.

Auburn City Councilwoman Bridget Powers said she supports the regional proposal, which Auburn could be part of in the future.

“Thank you for taking the time on what could be the biggest decision or our community for the next 50 years,” Powers said.